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2009.03.26 > For Immediate Release
contact: Wendy Townley - University Relations
phone: 402.554.2762 - email: wtownley@unomaha.edu

$1 Million Gift to Benefit UNO Students Needing Financial Assistance to Attend College

Omaha - A Dallas businessman is helping the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) make higher education more affordable for students in Nebraska and western Iowa who otherwise could not attend college.

Edward Pechar, a 1963 graduate of UNO (then Omaha University) and an Omaha native, made a $1 million gift to the University of Nebraska Foundation to create full tuition scholarships. Pechar is owner and chairman of McCormick Distilling Company, Inc., located in Weston, Mo., with offices in Dallas.

The Edward A. Pechar Scholarships are directed toward UNO students who need financial assistance to attend college but are ineligible for federal Pell grants, the largest federal effort to help students from low income families afford higher education.

Currently more than 75 percent of UNO’s 15,000 students apply for financial aid. Of that number only 25 percent are eligible for Pell grants, leaving 75 percent seeking other forms of assistance.

“The University remains concerned about a critical segment of students, many of them first generation college students, who are struggling to afford a college education,” UNO Chancellor John Christensen said. “These students have tremendous potential and a great desire to pursue a higher education. Yet many of their families’ earn incomes that disqualify them from receiving Pell grants. These families are struggling with financial challenges that greatly influence their ability to help their students pay for college."

“We are tremendously grateful to Mr. Pechar for his foresight, compassion and generosity,” Christensen added. “These scholarships will make a difference in the lives of those students who receive this assistance and to the University in making a college education accessible to a broader group of students.”

Pechar understands the importance of higher education. A first generation college student himself, Pechar graduated from Omaha University with a bachelor’s degree in speech communication. After serving in the Air Force, he went on to earn a law degree from the Salmon P. Chase College of Law and was admitted to the Ohio State Bar in 1972.

Pechar has spent the last 40 years working in the liquor industry as a business executive. He bought his first company in 1987 and then McCormick Distilling Company, the oldest continuously operating distillery in the U.S. west of the Mississippi, in 1993. In the nearly 16 years that Pechar has owned McCormick Distilling the company has grown from 35 employees and $50 million in sales to 186 employees and more than $180 million in sales. Today McCormick Distilling products are sold in all 50 states in the U.S. and 37 foreign countries.

In 2007 McCormick Distilling introduced 360 Vodka, the world’s first EcoLuxury vodka. This “green” product is produced and bottled in an environmentally-friendly process, a first in the liquor industry.

Pechar credits much of his professional success to UNO and said giving back to his alma mater made sense at this point in his life.

“I gained so much when I was a student at Omaha University. The faculty was remarkable, and I have nothing but good memories,” he said. “I recently returned to campus and couldn’t believe what I saw. The progress UNO has made is amazing.”

By creating need-based scholarships, Pechar said he hopes to help students from economic backgrounds similar to his when he attended college.

“Financial stress is a huge problem today and without scholarship assistance many deserving students may not be able to attend college,” he commented. “I want to help change that.”

For more information contact Wendy Townley, UNO University Relations, at (402) 554-2762; or Jennifer Arnold, University of Nebraska Foundation, at (402) 502-4919.

* *

UNO is celebrating its 100th anniversary. The celebration recognizes the partnership among the City of Omaha, its citizens and UNO to build a vibrant and dynamic community. The centennial theme is “UNO: Central To Our City Since 1908.” This theme acknowledges the past contributions of UNO to the community and sets the stage for great things to come.

UNO, inaugurated in 1968, emerged from the Municipal University of Omaha, established in 1931, which grew out of the University of Omaha founded in 1908. For Centennial information, go to http://www.unomaha.edu/100/.

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